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Sen. Baucus Hears from Richest of the Rich About Estate Tax

December 17, 2009

HELENA, Mont. - Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus's call for keeping the estate tax in place wasn't strong enough for Senate action. Extending it through next year to cover a one-year gap in the tax has been blocked by Senate Republicans, even after some of the richest families in the country this week asked for the extension.

John Bogle, founder and retired CEO of The Vanguard Group and one of the "richest of the rich," is pulling for extending the tax for next year and beyond. Bogle explains that the way tax law works, most of his wealth has not yet been taxed, and it won't be taxed until his death. He also says he resents the fact that a few rich families are fighting the tax.

"For us, who owe these taxes, to think that we don't want to pay our fair share for the cost of running this nation, when our young citizens are dying in wars out there trying to protect democracy, seems to me quite outrageous."

Critics of the tax say it hurts family businesses and farms, and they are dismayed that the one-year extension is being added to a Department of Defense appropriations bill.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger says the tax affects very few estates, and the current terms are generous. Burger noted that a wealthy family with two children can pass on $3.5 million to each child tax-free. She puts that in perspective for the more than 99 percent of Americans who are not affected by the estate tax.

"That means that each child will receive more tax-free than the average worker in America would earn in two lifetimes. And that worker will be paying taxes on their earnings."

Research from Boston's United for a Fair Economy finds that 18 families have spent millions of dollars in a coordinated campaign to eliminate the tax, and they've succeeded in winning five tax cuts since 2001.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - MT